Carbon Civilisation and the Energy Descent Future: Life Beyond this Brief Anomaly

Samuel Alexander and Joshua Floyd

Carbon civilisation is powered predominately by finite fossil fuels and with each passing day it becomes harder to increase or even maintain current supply. Our one-off fossil energy inheritance is but a brief anomaly in the evolution of the human story, a momentary energy spike from the perspective of deep time. Today humanity faces the dual crises of fossil fuel depletion and climate change, both of which are consequences of the modern world’s fundamental reliance on the energy abundance provided by fossil energy sources. Can renewable energy replace the fossil energy foundations of carbon civilisation? This book examines these issues and presents a narrative linking energy and society that maintains we should be preparing for renewable futures neither of energy abundance nor scarcity, but rather energy sufficiency. For industrial societies, this means navigating energy descent futures.

Samuel Alexander is a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs and researcher at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne. His interdisciplinary work focusses primarily on the socio-economic implications of renewable energy transitions. He is author of twelve books, including Prosperous Descent: Crisis as Opportunity in an Age of Limits (2015) and Sufficiency Economy: Enough, for Everyone, Forever (2015). Many of his writings are available here:

Joshua Floyd is Energy, Systems and Society Fellow at The Rescope Project. His work draws on experience in futures studies and strategic foresight, and systems thinking and practice. His technical grounding and interest in energy systems draws on a background in mechanical engineering and professional experience in the extractive metallurgy industry. His extended writings on energy and society are available here:

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